Invisible Parasite

Written for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge on Terrible Minds last week. I’m a day late, but hey. I still finished it! The idea was to “roll for the title.” I rolled 14 and 19 to come up with Invisible Parasite and challenged myself to do something new, which was to write science fiction for the first time! I talked about it in my post last week how I’ve never written any science fiction and had always felt daunted by it. But I pushed past that and came up with this. It was incredibly fun and the ~1000 word limit really helped me from getting too out of hand. It really made me focus the story down, to edit, to not let it get away from me too much. So yeah. Here’s my result!

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Invisible Parasite

“I don’t know how much longer I have,” Nora spoke into the camera set up before her. “There’s something here, we don’t know what. I don’t know what. I’m the only one left now.” There was a door behind her which she kept glancing at nervously, fearfully. “When we launched this expedition to Mars, we had no idea what would happen. Trying to colonize the planet turned out to be a mistake, and I hope that this video reaches you before it’s too late. I hope this serves as enough of a warning for you.”

“It is March 22nd, 2631 and my name is Nora Peters. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 2598. We were here for eight months before we noticed anything. I’m not sure if the effects of the parasite are delayed, or if they just didn’t get into our system until then, but we eventually noticed. David Johnson was the first to be infected. Johnson started acting very uncharacteristically.” A noise sounded outside of the door, just loud enough to be heard through the heavy steel door.

“There’s really no hope for me at this point. It’ll get me soon, but I had to get this to you first. I have to keep you safe.”

An incessant banging sounded from the locked door behind her, someone desperate to get in. Someone desperate to get her.

“Nora!” a voice shouted through the door. “Nora, please help me. Please let me in!”

“That’ll be Laura. Dr. Laura Shepherd.” Nora’s eyes watered as she heard her friend pleading with her. “She became infected last week. Started displaying the early signs. I’m getting ahead of myself though.” Nora collected herself. Dr. Shepherd continued to cry for help outside of the door.

“Eight months ago when we landed on this planet, it was to set about colonizing it, as you know. We were the team selected to pioneer the migration from our overcrowded Earth. Mars was the obvious choice. We started terraforming it, growing our own food in the soil, collected water from deep under the earth, everything to begin making it habitable for humans on a larger scale.”

“Nora! Please, he’s going to hurt me, please you have to help me!” Dr. Shepherd continued to shout.

“The first stage of the infection was hard to identify as something out of the ordinary. It really just looked like a flu virus of some form. Fatigue, aching, fever, all the symptoms of a flu. We didn’t think much of it at the time, assuming that someone had just carried the virus with us from Earth. But then the mood swings came. He would be fine one moment and the next he would become violently angry for the littlest things. Laur— Dr. Shepherd, ran some blood tests on him and found nothing. We were all concerned, but she couldn’t find anything wrong with him physically.

“He soon became too violent. He attacked Simon Young, one of our scientists.” Nora scrubbed her hands over her face. “Simon was in a coma for a couple of days afterwards. We were lucky we got to them when we did or Johnson would have easily killed him. We sedated Johnson and rushed them both to the infirmary. When Simon finally came out of it, he had the same flu-like symptoms Johnson first displayed. Two others had gotten sick within those days.

“Dr. Shepherd performed a physical on Simon, to try and find anything that accounted for what was happening to our team. She found a small bite mark just behind his ear, concealed by his hair. It looked like a spider bite, but a bit bigger. He had no recollection of anything biting him. Dr. Shepherd checked the others and found they had the same marks on various places on their bodies. We aren’t sure what is here, but there’s something. Some creature that’s infecting us.

“Johnson died just a week after he got sick, two days before Simon woke up. He wasn’t himself though for all those days. I don’t know if he would have remembered what had happened to him if he hadn’t— I’m not sure if I should say that he was really alive those final days or if he died the moment he got the bite.”

The banging on the door was growing louder as Laura continued to shout for Nora. She was no longer pleading with her, but was angry and savage. Another voice had joined hers. The door began to give way to their efforts.

“We don’t know where this thing came from. From the soil, from the water, from the air. It could be anywhere. We’ve never seen a creature in our station. We scanned the station and I searched for it, along with Paul Llewellyn. That’s him outside the door with Laura. We never found anything though. When we finally gave up and returned to the infirmary to talk to Laura, I noticed he had a bite mark on his neck. Laura had one as well.

“We lived here for eight months without anything happening and then just three weeks ago this nightmare began. I found a bite on my shoulder three days ago. I could barely bring myself to get here to film this. I’m feeling a bit better now, but I know what comes next and I had to warn you.” The door behind her flew open, banging heavily on the wall. Laura and Paul ran forward, bent on attack, eyes dark and empty, as Nora frantically implored with the camera, shouting at it, “They aren’t human anymore. I don’t know what it is, but their eyes. They’re empty, dead. Just— Don’t come to Mars. Leave the planet alone, don’t com—”

And Now for Something Completely Different

Don’t mind my stolen title. Think of it as an allusion instead…

Writing my novel has become challenging post NaNoWriMo. I reached the 50K goal at the end of the November, clocking in my word count a full two hours before the deadline, and good lord was I relieved. I felt so accomplished and proud of myself for hitting that goal in only 30 days. It was the most writing I had ever accomplished on a single project and to have done it in only a month? Boy was I proud. The story wasn’t finished but I had written a large portion of the plot and had plans to keep on writing it.

Here comes the problem. I foolishly decided that I would allow myself two weeks off to recharge and then I would get back into it. With a friend coming to town right at the end of those two weeks who wanted to do some writing together, I thought sure. That sounds reasonable, right? Nope. Those two weeks killed any and all motivation I had to write my novel.  The friend came to town and we got together to write as planned and I found that I could do nothing. I stared at my novel for about two hours before I quit for the night. I changed around a few words, read some stuff, but could do nothing with it. I couldn’t write new content, I couldn’t edit what I had previously worked on, nothing. A few days later, I tried again, and still, nothing.

Then Christmas happened and god knows it’s impossible to do anything around the holidays, so writing altogether got put on the back burner until the new year.

Last week I decided that I should write something completely different while I still have the strong urge to throw my novel off a cliff. Terrible Minds has a flash fiction challenge of roughly 1000 words with a different theme/prompt/whatever every week so I decided, “Hey. That sounds reasonable. I could do 1000 word short stories for a little bit to get myself back into the groove of writing.”

So I started one last week, one of his older challenges from October and I have to say, it was really nice to be working on something that wasn’t my novel. I still haven’t finished the story I started then, but I will soon. I decided to start his newest challenge today because it stretched me to do something I’ve really never done before.

Science Fiction.

Science fiction is one of those things that I really enjoy, but have never felt confident enough to actually write myself because I find it so incredibly daunting. I read things like Ray Bradbury (his short story Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed is one of my favorite things I have ever read in my life) and watch things like Joss Whedon’s Firefly (whyyyyy is there only one season of that masterpiece?!) and I think “wow, I could never do something that great” and that thinking stops me from ever trying in the first place.

It’s exactly the same train of thought that kept me from writing fiction at all for years and years until I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2012. I had it in my head that I was not good at writing fiction, so I just never gave it any effort. Well, in 2012 I decided that that was so stupid of me and so I just decided to give it a go. If I don’t like it, oh well. At least I tried. I soon found out that not only was I enjoying the writing process, but I was enjoying what I was writing.

And now I discovered that that same thinking was keeping me from writing science fiction, a genre that I really enjoy! Well, today I decided that that is a horrible way of thinking and so I have delved into the world of science fiction! It’s an incredibly new experience for me and it is so vastly different from my novel (which may or may not be medieval(ish?) though really I can’t figure out when it takes place. There are medieval aspects to it, but I don’t picture it as medieval… Either way, it’s not science fiction at all.) that it’s become an exciting little break from the world of my novel altogether. I’m enjoying writing today and not dragging my heels back to my computer (or rather away from Netflix) to work on my novel.

It’s probably not the most unique thing ever written, but I am writing and not just saying that I’m going to write and that’s a step in the right direction! Speaking of, I should really get back to it. Look for it soon as I will be posting it here when I am finished with it!