Welcome to the September 2020 edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
The recent debate about Lovecraft and his influence on the speculative fiction genre reminded me of A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs, a story I wrote three years ago about sort of Lovecraftian aliens attacking a mining outpost.
As I wrote here, this story was my attempt to write the kind of “Pew, pew, let’s kill all the aliens” military science fiction that sells well in the Amazon Kindle store. Though in the end, it turned into something quite different, because it seems I simply can’t write that kind of story and take it seriously. And so my protagonists are not heroic space marines, but security staff at a mining outpost. And while the aliens are scary and alien, they actually have a motivation beyond “Kill all humans” to do what they’re doing. There is plenty of shooting and explosions, though.
So join Matt and Cally, as they prepare to fight…
A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs
Space-suited creatures stream through the airlock. At least, I think they’re wearing space suits, since those sure as hell don’t look like any space suits I’ve ever seen. There are too many arms, too many legs, too many limbs. Even looking at them hurts and makes me doubt my sanity.
More and more pour into the station, until the entire corridor is just a mess of arms and legs and limbs. Closer and closer they come, relentless, unstoppable.
My finger tightens on the trigger of my plasma rifle, itching to shoot, itching to blow off some of those arms and legs and limbs, blow them to smithereens.
“Hold your fire,” the voice of Security Chief Burnett echoes in my ear, “Hold until they’re at the bulkhead.”
Intellectually, I know he’s right. After all, we’ve only got one shot at this, just one chance. But though my mind knows he’s right, that doesn’t mean that my heart does.
After all, I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve seen the aftermath, the bloodstained floors and mangled human bodies, the charred remnants of outposts where not a single soul was left alive.
At first, we didn’t even know what it was. All we knew was that along the rim, outposts and space stations suddenly went dark. And once the galactic government got around to sending someone to investigate, all they found were wrecked stations and decomposing bodies without a single clue as to what had happened.
Bodies and wrecked outposts piled up, as the attacks increased. And gradually, we found clues. SOS calls, breaking off in mid transmission. Marks and scratches on walls and bulkheads that nothing human could have made. Traces of organic substances that matched absolutely nothing in the known universe. And finally, grainy security cam footage of multi-limbed horrors the likes of which no human eye had ever seen.
We’d thought that we were alone in the cosmos, that the universe was ours for the taking. We were wrong.
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.