I fancied writing something familiar, but also something that would be a challenge … so what better than a slice of Alien fan-fic? Inspired by the retelling of The Thing from the creature’s perspective (see bottom for link), I thought I’d have a go at doing the same for Alien, which delivered the interesting challenge of writing a narrative from the perspective of a creature that doesn’t have a language. Let me know how I did in the comments below.
(10 minute read)
It knew pain before anything else. Waking warm, trapped, and hungry … craving freedom. Pain flooded through all. The sound of it. The rushing agony of it. There was darkness all around and the creature fought for light. Pushing and biting, craving nothing more than the need to be free. The pain faded—it belonged somewhere else. The sounds that enveloped it brought their own pain. An echo of the life being given so it could live.
Warmth flooded around the creature as the darkness was torn away and light filled the breach. It was no longer alone. No longer trapped. It was exposed. Tiny and vulnerable. The fading pain shrank away, replaced by something different.
It sang out from the Others that surrounded it. The creature knew it was different than they were, and the Others feared it because of that … except for the few that felt anger, and the one that felt nothing. The fear was right. The fear was natural. The fear was needed.
And, in turn, the creature felt something of its own.
It desired … survival. It desired … the Others—the ones that were not like it. They belonged to it now—they were the gift, but they weren’t ready. Soon they would join together. They would all be One. They would be the same. The creature sang to them, telling them this.
And then it fled into the darkness.
In the darkness the creature grew. Feasting on scraps. Consuming anything it found. Its body softened, oozing the jelly that sustained and nurtured it. The old bits of it fell away; new limbs, new structures—new life—emerged from the remains.
The creature slept in solitude as its body continued its work, aware that it was alone, aware that it shouldn’t be. Until … out in the darkness something moved. Something drew closer. Something warm and alive. Curious, the creature left its resting place and went to hunt.
The hunt stirred a fresh kind of longing: hunger. It was drained and empty after the change; and it was different now, everything around it was smaller. Where it had fled through vast chasms following its birth, there were now only cramped tunnels and passageways. Nevertheless, its body adapted effortlessly to the environment, shifting and stretching. Its senses guided it, telling it where it could travel and where it would be trapped. It moved quickly and without hesitation.
It followed the Other and emerged into a vast cavern where the song of metal and cool water soothed it. It slumbered momentarily, hanging in the air, the hunt forgotten. Then a new sound came from below, awakening it. There was more than one Other down there, both different than each other, both different than it was, and yet …
The creature descended.
And it was seen.
A tiny beast—a hunter—screeched at it, sounding its fear in the shape of a warning. Perhaps it was kin, but there was no time before it was gone. Disappeared. Leaving the remaining Other behind to gaze upon the creature. It felt the Other’s awe. Its fear. In the moment of dominion the creature fully understood its purpose: to take the Others, to transform them into itself so it would no longer be alone.
But … the hunger. It consumed everything. It was uncontrollable.
A wave of desire rushed into being, surging through the creature. The Other screamed as the life poured from it. The hunger was abated, but in its absence the emptiness returned. A multitude of voices sang in the distance. The lost family. The lost promise. Confused and angry, the creature took its broken prize and retreated into solitude.
The creature waited, hidden in the dark of its new nest. Just as it had once endured, so the Other was now undergoing its own transformation. The pain was absent. From instinct—and unremembered memory—the creature understood there could be no transformation without pain but there was only silence. The creature couldn’t know if the transformation would work or not. Either it would be alone or it wouldn’t. All it could do was wait.
As it slept inside the silence its awareness grew. Sounds came to it. Warmth travelled in bursts and ripples, signalled by changes in the air around it and beyond. There were Others out there still—more gifts for the nest, for the family. It could feel where they were. And there was one out there now. Alone. Travelling through the same tunnels that the creature used.
Something close to joy, but colder and darker, rose in the creature. There was no hunger this time, just the desire to grow and continue the transformation. It flew into the tunnels, moving silently, tracking its prey. Waiting for it to come to the right spot. Perhaps even playing with it. As the Other moved, so did the creature, never revealing its presence …
Until there it was: the prey, right before it.
The Other moved as the creature reached out to embrace it and a blazing light washed over them both. Burning. In the tiny crawlspace the heat had nowhere else to go. It flowed around them, reflecting against the walls, slamming into them. The creature lashed out, whipping its tail forward. The Other instantly went limp; still alive but no longer a threat. The burning light went dark. The pain withered.
The creature inspected its prize, cradling it in its arms. It had been scorched by its own light and heat, but life remained inside it. And pain. The pain was good. The peculiar limb that had delivered that pain had gone dark, the heat burning away. The creature pulled at the limb and it fell away easily, falling to the ground with a harsh sound. The creature took the Other, protecting it, and returned to its nest.
This time the transformation would succeed.
The creature laboured, turning the gift into a thing that could grow and, in time, join it. The work was slow and hard. The transformation needed time, and even when it was done another gift would be required. The creature slept and worked, worked and slept, longing for the time when it would no longer be alone but, for now, it endured.
It felt … powerful. But still alone. It wasn’t supposed to be alone. Where was the family? Where was the Mother? Why had it been abandoned?
And it waited.
And it dreamt.
And it listened to the Others.
As the sounds of them grew, the desire to hunt rose again and the creature was driven to leave its nest in pursuit. It followed the echoes of the Others: their warmth; their fear—there was no prey without fear—until it found them. Two of them: one so filled with fear it was intoxicating. The creature listened to its song for a while, the pattern of its breath, the scent of its terror until, finally it decided to emerge from its hiding place and reveal itself. It drew close, studying the terrified Other, fascinated. They were different from each other, yet still familiar. The creature recognised itself in the Other, despite the grotesquery of its appearance: the soft flesh, the warm blood. Everything that made it vulnerable and weak. Everything that made it prey.
So enraptured was the creature that it almost failed to sense the attack coming from behind. It whipped around, striking the second Other and sending it to the floor. Even as the creature took hold of it the attacker fought, so filled with rage and anger there was barely room left for the fear. The creature marvelled at the weakness of it, the futility in its attack. Despite its helplessness, the Other fought and screamed. Its rage, fuelled by its fear, drove the creature’s desire. The hunger surged once again.
In moments the screaming thing was dead, discarded and lifeless on the floor. The creature turned from it, back to its real prize: the Other who remained frozen by its fear. Unable to run. Unable to fight. The creature reached to embrace the Other, its tail stretching around for the final caress.
And the fear broke. The Other screamed and lashed, the fight coming from a hidden place inside it. Even as the creature tried to drag its prize into the dark, towards its nest, the prey continued to fight against it. It was too fragile. It writhed and broke and fractured itself until the creature was eventually forced to abandon the lifeless, useless shell.
Alone again, the creature escaped back into the dark; the two gifts lost and abandoned.
It knew nothing of failure or disappointment. All it understood was desire, and whether that had been sated or not. Unfulfilled needs raged through the creature as it fled. It ran through the dark tunnels and caverns, away from the hunt. It avoided returning to its nest: there was little purpose in going back there without a gift.
After a time, it paused. Desire still consumed it, but it was finally numbed by a momentary exhaustion. The creature sat. Waited.
When it stopped the creature could feel the confines around it once again. It could see the shape of things; it saw where its domain ended and how there was nothing beyond that. It felt for the Others that shared its domain. There were not as many as before.
Then it felt something else.
Its nest—its future—was dying. The song of pain that had signalled the transformation, the glory of the Work, surged and fell quickly silent. The creature waited but there was nothing more. It was alone. Despair and anger found brief footholds, but it was something else that now settled amid the creature’s violent instincts: fear. Something out there could deliver pain and harm to it. This new understanding confused the creature. It was the hunter; it was the one that collected the gifts and transformed them. Fear was alien to it. Death and loss had no part to play in its understanding.
As these new concepts tortured it, a fresh agony arrived. Light and sound ripped through the air, overwhelming its senses. It tried to hide itself away, to shield itself from the sound, but it was no use. The sound persisted. The creature lashed and beat at the walls that confined it, trying to find and destroy the source of the pain.
It almost failed to sense something watching it: the final Other. It fled the moment it was noticed, but it left something behind. A gift? The creature drew close to inspect the object and found that it contained the other hunter: the one that was almost kin. From its own nest the hunter stared back at the creature. The two studied one another. The creature made no effort to free it: the nest was gone and the hunter would be wasted as a gift.
In that moment of contemplation the creature sensed a place where the light and the noise didn’t reach. A new nest. The creature turned away, the hunter instantly forgotten.
Darkness, once again, took hold of the creature. Safe in its new nest, it slumbered, waiting for the moment when the work could begin anew. Its domain was smaller now and shook violently in a way that the old one had not, but the creature understood that the movement was a sign that it was being taken somewhere new: a place where it could hunt again. The creature saw images of fresh prey; unlimited stock for the nest. It dreamed of no longer being alone.
In this barely conscious state, the creature ignored the Other until it came close, so close that the warmth from its body caused the desire to rise and surge once again. The creature lashed out: a warning. The Other obeyed, screaming and running away, the sharpness of its fear a strange comfort. The creature returned to its dreams. It could feel the Other close by, and it knew this was the same one that had killed its nest. The fear, anger and revulsion remained inside, but they were distant. Tiny. The dreams were all that mattered. The nest. The work.
From its hiding place the creature watched the Other, studying its movements, satisfied that the Other was afraid and would carry no threat.
Burning and hissing surrounded the creature. A terrible scream like the one it had endured before, except with pain. It fought to escape, the constrictions of its new nest now holding it in. It pushed and tore against the heat, against the confinement, until it found freedom once again.
The Other waited, neither running nor attacking even though the fear sang loud from it. The creature’s hunger sang back. The work could begin again in this new nest, with this new gift. It rose up, dominating the Other.
A new and terrible roar rose, grasping everything and pulling it towards the emptiness that lay beyond this new and tiny domain. The creature felt itself being picked up, stolen from its work, thrown into the emptiness. It reached out, fighting instinctively against this new threat to cling on and find purchase against the boundaries of the nest. The force trying to drag it into the darkness was already weakening. All it had to do was hold on and then it could—
It erupted from inside, as though it was being born again except this time the pain belonged only to itself. Its hold was broken, nothing left now to prevent it from falling into the darkness, except—the pain held onto it, not letting go, keeping it close to the tiny box where the Other waited for it. A coldness started to surround and fill the creature, but it didn’t matter: the prey was still there. The pain pulled them together, dragging the creature back to the hunt, back to another one of the tunnels that always led to the prey. It grabbed and climbed and pulled its way in, the pain and thrill consuming all.
And then the fire ended it all.
A great roar of heat and pain that became everything. The creature had no time to comprehend was happening to it. Before any thought could flicker, the pain had gone. The hunger. The hunt.
All that was left was the darkness. And the emptiness.
Exclusive to Slightly Odd Tales!
Be sure to read The Things by Peter Watts.