Serial Killers: On the Origin of the Species (Part 2) by Avital Malenky

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Alien life forms found on planets with liquid water on their surface were proving to be quite a problem to the new colonies. That life actually wiped out almost all of the colonies from the second wave of the Great Migration. The interaction with most local wildlife was short and bloody and whole settlements died within hours from disease or sudden and violent attacks.

These deadly attacks were sometimes commenced by the alien life, no one was denying that, but sometimes it was conceived by the settlers themselves. It was believed some settlers of the second wave saw it as a necessary eradication method to rid the colony of alien infections, or maybe they got sick somehow and turned mad, inflicting pain and mayhem on each other without a logical reason. Either way, very few of the settlements survived the first meeting of the species prevalent on the second wave of The Migration.

The ones that did, had to wipe out the exotic life as much as they possibly could in order to survive. In their rage and hunger for life, the colonists might not have extinguished all alien life they encountered, but they certainly tried.

The Migrant fleet spaceships that bore the humans all across the skies were magnificent beasts. A few kilometers long, hundreds of meters wide, they filled the ice fields turned into space fields of the old world. The best of human technology, their last hopes for the future, each spaceship held thousands of people on each trip off of The Earth.

There were hundreds of spaceships on each of the waves and their numbers grew as more and more were being built for each wave off the ground.

The fleet traveled through countless light-years and peppered the settlers in droplets of survival pods on their new planets. The new settlements had means of communication, construction, and medicine built into the pods themselves. The little pods were everything a human being could need on a new planet, except for a way back.

Hannah and Itzhak studied their whole lives to be admitted to the colonizing fleet and had left the earth on the Fourth Wave heading for the vegetative world LV-420 aptly dubbed by its new colonizers as “Dryad”.

Hannah was an A&E nurse while in the fleet and promoted to head nurse a few years later when they dropped. Itzhak was a botanist and worked in the greenhouses aboard the migration ship when they dropped he harvested and studied local fruit in the jungle.

They were happy. Edith was one of the first babies born in the colony and their firstborn. Itzhak had built a round cot for his daughter, it fitted the roundhouses they all lived in. The cot was made from vine and local wood, the same as the houses. The buildings sat on heavy stilts trying to escape the ever damp soil of the jungle and Itzhak made the cot with tiny stilt legs to match.

It was that round homemade cot that Hannah saw turned upside down one morning as she came in to feed her daughter. Edith was still in it, thankfully, quiet and completely terrified. When Hannah ran towards her bleeding daughter and picked her up, she jolted little Edith into sudden heartbreaking sobs. The cot, as well as the stilted houses, were not enough to keep the monsters out.

Edith’s back was cut with three long scratches, deep and ugly, they would leave her scarred for life. The house camera when played back showed a single talon, curved and cruel, pulling the bedding off the cot sometime before dawn.

The creature accidentally hooked its nails on her daughter’s back as it went through the cot. Like a piece of leaf stuck to a shoe, or an annoying bug you want to shoo, the animal violently shook Edith off its talons, tossing the baby to the side of the room. It was out the window in seconds and gone into the night.

The Watch started searching for the creature right away. The Watch was just a small after-work detail up until then, after the attack however, Hannah saw them recruiting everyone. Even Hannah joined the searches eventually, when she thought she could leave Edith for a few hours.

After those early weeks in which Edith seemed to be recovering well enough, Hannah felt she had to do something more to vent her rage and helplessness and went out into the jungle with The Watch, determined to find the animals that attacked her daughter.

Hannah hadn’t been much outside the colony, being mostly buried in her lab, but she still wanted to experience her new planet for herself.

Hannah loved Dryad, she just didn’t know it all that well until her own daughter was attacked. Hannah didn’t mind the water clogged air or the high humidity and its wet heat. Sure, it was uncomfortable most days, but every time she stepped outside the air-conditioned lab, Hannah would stop still and let the heat soak back into her once-again frozen bones.

Hannah and everyone else who was born on earth was born into the forming new reality of the human race in an ice age. That meant hunger, death, and most of all, the cold. Hannah has never been warm for a day in her life before she came to Dryad. However hot and uncompromising the weather was, it was above all and finally, hot.

The colonists decided to name their planet Dryad after a tree goddess in ancient Greek mythology. Hannah walked down the center trail of the colony and off the road into the silent canopy. The green of the exotic vines swallowed her whole and Hannah realized they had picked the perfect name. 

Avital Malenky

I grew up in an ultra-orthodox community in Israel but left that life very young. Having traveled all over the world after my Military service in Army Intelligence, I settled with my husband and son in England. I battle PTSD daily and am caring for my son, recently diagnosed with autism.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Flame Tree Press' A Dying Planet and Nosetouch Press' Fiends in the Furrows. She is the author of gothic novella, Bottled, from Silver Shamrock Publishing and the novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing. Her first novel, The Way of the Mother, is due out in October, via Silver Shamrock. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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