Bewildering Stories

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by Byron Bailey

Like all the structures on Earth, very little remained of the house except for a pile of shattered brick, powdered glass, splintered wood and mangled appliances. Only the doors remained whole, the lack of support causing them to fall on top of the rubble like tired seneschals waiting too long to be relieved.

A scaly, violet piece of parchment clung tacked to what used to be the front door. The lone man ripped the parchment from the door. He ignored the mistiness in his eyes as he read.

We will drink draughts of flame to your misery because if you can read this, we will have failed, not that the greater mission ever had a chance of failing.

We feel even more regret at the destruction of your works — this wonderful structure you have erected filled with pictures and strange altars that only those more religious than ourselves could fathom. We especially do not understand why the cold box is filled with plant and animal flesh when you know perfectly well that only properly putrefied food is worth eating.

But then we think we know the answer. You plan on living forever. (Your wife told us you were a scientist.) With eternity before you, the flesh can acquire that exotic flavor only centuries of putrescence can give it.

We do not have any qualms with the practice of ice aging. In the ancient days we, too, practiced ice aging. We do, however, have qualms with you living forever. In fact we have qualms with you simply living. However, our scope of operation is not with you personally, but with the entire human species. Your kind has turned hell into a nightmare.

A citizen can’t stretch her wings and take flight without an arriving immigrant slamming down into her, sending her spiraling into the ocean. Eventually, the ocean spits her out in a tidal wave, shatters her bones against the shore. At one time, we were not horribly disfigured. In fact, we were beautiful enough to tempt even the most obstinate mortal.

Even while on the ground, a citizen can’t outstretch her wings without delicate membranes being mangled by the jostling horde. Now our wings are crippled and tattered. Most of us couldn’t fly even if we dared. The supply of fresh immigrants must be destroyed. No more multiplying!

We made every attempt to provide a merciful death to your wife Cynthia and child Aaron. Unfortunately, mercy requires exactitude and luck. Cynthia’s lack of cooperation made exactitude impossible. All she needed to do was open the door.

In hell, only the thirteen have doors (and consequently functioning wings). Even with direct orders, we couldn’t break one down, the instinct for self-preservation being too thoroughly ingrained. The penalty for intruding upon one of the thirteen has always been severe: impalement on an enormous hook followed by a dunking into the ocean. Dismemberment or consumption may occur. Little was more calming to the thirteen than an afternoon of fishing.

We begged and threatened Cynthia to open the door. In desperation, we finally smashed through the walls. We encountered even more doors. Do you think you deserve more privacy than the thirteen? We lost our temper. When we lose our temper, we smash things. First we started on Cynthia’s toes and worked our way upwards, her wails stopping about half way through. Then we smashed Aaron. Unfortunately, we still felt unsatisfied — you humans destroy far too easily for proper anger management. We continued smashing until nothing remained to smash.

If you are reading this, then know that unless you take action, your suffering will be exquisite, perhaps in the form of blood-filled lungs, a liquefied liver, or an oozing brain. As we have said, even though you might still live, the greater mission will not have failed. In our initial assault, we infected the Earth with thirty-six biological pathogens, each designed to destroy your species. You might have a resistance to one or two of them. But the others will surely kill you. The immigration problem will soon be solved.

Your suffering need not be exquisite, though. Consuming our flesh causes humans to slip into a peaceful coma. Death follows within the hour. In our mercy, we culled the parchment you are currently reading from our very own wings. We don’t have a use for them any more but we thought you might. The choice is yours.

The man stared at the crimson scrawl, violet veins running down the parchment. He wouldn’t die from biological pathogens. The worldwide release of the nanogents had nullified them. He lowered the parchment, dropped it into the specimen bag. The more biological samples he could find, the better. Hell might have invented biological warfare but it certainly hadn’t perfected it.

Copyright © 2004 by Byron Bailey

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