Serial Killers: On the Origin of the Species (Part 4) 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.

At first, Hannah was just fascinated by the changes she saw in her daughter, watching her baby evolve in a new and unexpected way. Like every first-time mother, Hannah would sit and watch her daughter for hours, enjoying her bursting life. She also read every book the colony had on record about babies and their development, as she wanted to do a good job at being a mother. And now, having watched her daughter closely only weeks after the attack, Hannah was sure Edith was not growing up normally.

And not long after that Hannah started changing as well.

Hannah hid the changes in Edith’s appearance from the other colonists. Because of her position as a nurse, it was quite easy. Hannah inspected Edith alone when no one else saw, stating the excuse of checking her at home for time constraints. On the day after she would file the fake results in her office unchallenged.

Hannah breastfed and washed Edith alone and had to manage the poor baby alone after the attack. Edith developed a monstrous temper seemingly overnight and when Edith started biting and scratching her, Hannah couldn’t make her stop.

The poor girl had been through so much and Hannah tried to be with her every moment she could. But the baby’s temper was frightening her, Hannah’s breasts and hands were slowly being covered by Edith’s bites and scratch marks. She broke the skin so many times it left gushing red marks on Hannah’s once flawless skin. Hannah cried in silence as her tears and blood mixed with her daughter’s.

 Thankfully during the day time, or what the settlers knew to be days on Dryad, Edith seemed to be no trouble at all. The baby slept through almost the entire 16 hours’ period like the angel she used to be before the attack.

The biting and scratching nightmare during feeding time didn’t really stop until Hannah started changing herself. After a while, Hannah realized it was Edith’s biting her and breaking the skin which started the changes in her own body.

Still, she kept the altercations in them both a complete secret. Hannah’s skin and hair were changing, Edith was taking on a different shape. It was easy at first when it was just Edith that needed hiding. But eventually, Hannah will run out of all the makeup she brought with her. Hannah tried to stay at home with Edith as much as she possibly could to avoid being seen and that also worked well for a little while.

Itzhak came home very late almost every night. Even weeks and months after the attack he was still joining the search teams whenever he could. Hannah encouraged it, so Edith was already in her room when he arrived.

So you see the changes were relatively easy to conceal, and for a while, she did very well. But then her makeup ran out and Hannah had meetings she couldn’t cancel. Eventually, someone will notice the green hue in her skin or the curved nature her hands were taking and trouble will start. 

She found she watched the changes appear in herself as if she was having an out-of-body experience like she took too many drugs and was having some kind of an endless bad dream. It was almost comic what a predictable ending her daughter and herself will have. Hannah could see it all as if it had already happened.

Itzhak will find her and Edith out soon enough and will then be compelled to kill them both. Hannah couldn’t see another way to spare herself and her baby a lynching by the colonists. There was another option of being kept alive as a research subject for the human’s research on how to survive what happened to her. Being a medicine practitioner herself, Hannah saw the value in that, but she would honestly rather die than become a lab rat. 

When the extent of Hannah’s treasonous actions will become common knowledge, Hannah and Edith will no longer be safe, let alone welcome, in the colony.

Hannah intentionally didn’t keep track of any of her daughter’s changes and consistently destroyed all records of her and her daughter’s vitals as soon as she got them. Those actions will have probably earned her their deaths.

As Hannah and her daughter were becoming something else, something not human, the colonists will probably want blood for no other reason than for the crushing of the happy dream of peaceful existence on Dryad. Hannah would be a perfect vent for their rage and desperation when they find her out.

In a few days, she will not be able to hide anymore. Her skin was changing into something green and slimy and her pupils were elongating and deepening their hues, Edith looked more like a tadpole than a baby with every passing day.

Looking at herself in the mirror one morning Hannah realized she couldn’t mask the changes anymore. She decided to take her baby and run. A panicked Hannah packed some food and clothes and went out into the jungle in order to disappear forever, not sure exactly where to go. It was fear more than anything that made her run, Hannah didn’t have a plan.

Walking deeper into the vegetation with its eerie music and dark humidity, something stopped her from leaving the track into the thick of the forest she walked once before. They couldn’t follow the river, that’s the first place The Watch would look.

No, Hannah and Edith would have to go into the vines. Taking that step out of civilization and into the jungle seemed suddenly very final. Standing on the edge of the living quarter and the wild green maze outside, she inhaled deeply and Edith growled. The vines stretched in their frames, seemingly making room for Hannah.

For the first time in her life she could smell how far the river was. It was calling her. She inhaled again but decided to wait before answering its call and crawling into the vines. Edith was wailing in her arms, trying to break free, the baby screeched in the dark and cold like an animal.

They had to leave the open road, anyone could hear and see them out here. Hannah found an open warehouse on the outskirts of the settlement and hauled up. Desperate and alone, she hopelessly waited for her husband and their deaths.

Itzhak showed up a few short hours later, frantic, he was terrified something had happened to his wife and child. He had the whole colony looking for them and was half out of his mind by the time he was nearing her. Feeling him approaching the creaky door, recognizing his smell out of a thousand new smells she was suddenly aware of, Hannah made a decision and stepped into the light.

She knew what she looked like, wild, disheveled, stranger to him than she had ever seemed before. Edith was hissing in her arms, her little talons pulling at Hanna’s green hair. Hannah was already crying when Itzhak ran towards her.

“Go ahead Itzhak, kill me, I won’t resist I promise.”

Hannah was determined to make him end it quickly.

“I’m begging you, I don’t want to be a lab rat and I don’t want to be lynched either. Just make sure I am dead before you kill the baby, Promise me before you kill her! I can’t – “

Hannah fell to her knees, putting her daughter carefully on the ground. Hannah saw Edith’s little face, she looked so cute, elongated lizard eyes but still so baby blue. “Goodbye my baby girl my lovely little girl, I loved you from the minute I knew you were inside me and I hope you felt it too, I really did try…” The rest was lost in her sobs.

His voice broken as well, endless minutes later, Itzhak spoke to her.

“Get up Hannah, I’m not going to kill anyone. Fuck Humanity baby, let’s take over this planet and live, I’m not giving up on either one of you. You are my wife and Edith is my daughter, change me as well Hannah, I’m with you forever.”

Hannah, Edith, and Itzhak survived, as did the rest of the colony, once they understood the inevitability of being one with us.

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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