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The Backward Race
I was having a perfectly normal Sunday morning in the cafeteria, wolfing down several helpings of pie, away from work, and catching up on the latest news on Earth...Everything seemed just right.
Until the lab exploded.
I spit my third helping of pie all over my laptop.
I immediately grabbed for the teleport on my table, slamming my whole fist on it. A nauseating sense engulfed me as every cell in my body broke apart, only to be rearranged on the upper floor, to the source of the commotion. I clutched my stomach, willing my breakfast to stay in tact. They always make me want to throw up, those teleports.
I glanced around, the commotion seemed to come from a small, smoky faced girl lying on the floor, having a violent coughing fit. I could barely stop myself from rolling my eyes.
“Not again Cathy!”
Cathy hugged her stomach, still coughing, her hair was braided down one side, though most of it was smoldering. This was undoubtedly another of Cathy’s experiments that drove the Manager up the wall and made me want to slap her and clap her on the back at the same time.
“I...I,” she croaked.
I did roll my eyes this time, unimpressed. “Cathy I told you not to, you know the Manager always blames me for this!”
She retched, pools of sick poured out of her mouth, covering the already ashen floor. I stepped back, pity and annoyance raging to take a dominant place.
She finally sat up, still coughing, her fiery blue eyes fixated on me, her brows furrowed.
“I did it.”
Those three words worked like magic. Anger and exasperation at my friend vanished instantly and were replaced by half euphoria half disbelief.
“Are you serious?” I bent down to her, lowering my voice at the same time, “Cathy, did you really-”
“Yeah,” she cut it, “we did it.
Years back Catherine and I had started an ambitious project trying to build a machine that would allow us to travel far far away, so far all we’ve managed to do was make a lot of explosions and make the Manager very unhappy. Eventually I’d given up, but Cathy, she was persistent. Three years to the day I had the idea.
It was the year 2120, and we had made our own space machine.
Here we were drifting in space, in orbit around Earth, two teenagers filled with elation.
“Where should we go first?” Cathy asked me excitedly, hooking up the computers one by one.
Despite the happiness that had filled me when the project had finally been finished, I felt a twinge of doubt. What if Cathy was wrong? What if our machine didn’t work? But what if it did? And what would the Manager say?
Cathy turned towards me, her electric blue eyes sparkled with anticipation, hair as black as night dangling loosely in her braids.
“Cathy...” I began.
“Oh no! No no no no no!” She said, stamping her foot on the floor as a child who had lost her favorite toy would, “no you don’t back out Evans! We’ve been working for three years, remember? Three whole years! And to have you backing out like a baby now, of all times! Not now Evans! Not now!”
I stared at her, she wasn’t angry, not really. I had never seen Cathy angry at anyone, not ever. She was merely frustrated, tired even. But the truth of her words hit me. We had worked, well, mostly her and not me but I wasn’t going to remind her of that.
“Cathy, I’m coming, you’re right, we shouldn’t wait, we’ve waited long enough. Time to stop waiting.”
A goofy grin spread across her face, “yeah,” she said, “time to stop waiting .”
And together, we stepped into the time machine.
Our time machine.
It deposited us on a planet blooming with alien life.
It was relatively small compared to Earth, or even the Moon. We could actually see the planet’s curve on the far end. When I looked up at the sky, amazement filled every part of me. It had three moons revolving around it, each brilliantly weird and beautiful.
“Wow,” I said, summing up my mixed emotions.
“This is fantastic!” Cathy whooped, clasping her hands together in delight. “Come on Evans, we’ve got a whole planet to explore!”
And so we did, I kept close observation of things that this planet differs from Earth, while Cathy just skipped about, talking incessantly.
So far, everything was interesting, the plants were of a bluish shade and the life forms bizarre in every way.
I glanced at my wrist watch, four hours had slipped away.
“We should go, Cathy. We’re gonna be late for the Meeting,” I finally said.
“Just a bit more, perhaps there are face-eating tigers just ahead of us.”
I forced out a laugh, Cathy reminded me so much of my ten year old sister, still on Earth. She would have loved it here. I thought.
We walked for another quarter of an hour, I would have suggested to go back again until something so out of place caught my eye.
“Cathy, look at that.”
She turned to look in the direction I was pointing and gasped, eyes turning wide with surprise.
“What is that?”
“I honestly have no idea.” Beads of sweat were sliding down my face even though the air surrounding us was chilly.
The thing was definitely alive, it’s bare chest heaving up and down, up and down. It was about twice the size of a newborn child, its neck extremely long, barely supporting the head, on which there were only two eyes. It looked so pathetic lying there, skin crumpled together, eyes drooping with tiredness, six legs extending as if to grasp something just out of reach. Something tantalizingly close.
Then I realized something, the thing, clearly an animal, had no mouth visible. That struck me as slightly strange.
“It looks like it’s dying.”
I looked at Cathy, worry ceased my brow. Cathy was the sort of person who cared for everything, simply everything. From every human being down to an animal as horrible-looking as the thing lying in front of us.
“Cathy, we should go.”I said, clutching at her right sleeve, pulling almost dragging at it. But she wouldn’t budge. Her eyes so full of sympathy I thought they would burst.
We stood there for a long time, Cathy gazing at the creature and me trying in vain to drag her away.
“Hhhelllpppp...Meeee” The creature spoke suddenly. Though voice feeble and croaky, it was clearly discernible in the icy silence.
Something was wrong.
“How can we help?” Cathy asked, moving closer to the creature.
“Cathy,”I said, “don’t go near it.”
She shot me a look of disgust, and then turned her whole attention back to the creature. “How can we help?” She repeated, raising her voice.
“Closer...come closer...help me...”
Something was wrong, but my mind had short-circuited.
What was it? What was it? I searched my mind for answers as I watched in horror as Cathy slowly approached the creature.
It was huge, six octopus tentacles waving, liquid dripped from every part of its body, dousing the sand beneath. Its head was somewhat round with nothing but the liquid covering it, slimy and disgusting, it moved one tentacle upwards, towards Cathy. “One...touch...”It wheezed, “just...one...touch...”
Then, something clicked.
Where was the mouth?
“Cathy don’t!” I yelled.
Too late, Cathy’s finger tip had touched the creature’s slimy point, all I could see was her back and her outstretched finger.
Cathy fell as the monster rose. Her face dead white, her once startling blue eyes now vacant, empty, devoid of everything except for the reflection of this planet’s three moons.
I stood there, grief and shock weld up in my chest, leaving no place for fear. “What have you done?” I screamed, the effort ripping my throat.
The alien was now as tall as I, or, as Cathy. I felt a pang of sadness and forced it down.
We are the Tardus and we are rising.
“The Tardus?” I spluttered, “what’s that?”
It laughed, if you could call it a laugh. We are the backward race.
“That’s not it!” I yelled, “what did you do to Cathy?”
The Tardus swiped at me with its tentacle, my reflex kicked into action. I dodged easily backing away from the alien, and Cathy.
I absorbed her energy, her life line.
My voice shook as I spoke, “you mean you murdered her?”
Not murder human girl, consider it a sort of hunt, a sort of game, a game for survival. The Tardus must feed off energy to survive, but most lesser beings such as those disgusting rats barely have enough energy to allow us to back up for one year.
I gulped, sweat beading down my face.
I have absorbed the energy of your friend, and doing so I have glimpsed her mind. And such a great mind it is, such a great mind you have. You, are invaluable to the Tardus empire. We need minds like yours. We can do great things together. Alone, our power is limited, but together, our races can conquer the entire universe.
I looked into its eyes, but all I could see was darkness and greed.
“Your mouth.” Was all I could say, “It’s on your tentacle isn’t it?”
The round slimy head of the Tardus nodded.
Join the Tardus empire child, humans have so much potential, and together, we could make the whole universe bow down to us.
I heaved a deep breath, then forced out three words.
“You. Disgust. Me.”
The Tardus made a deep gurgling noise in its throat as it raised the tentacle that had sucked the energy out of Cathy towards me.
Luckily it was slow and it tripped over its many tentacles. Taking advantage of the moment, I ran.
And I didn’t look back.
Tears trickled off my cheeks as I ran like a coward, it was all my fault, this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my stupid ideas... The Tardus, the backward race...The puzzles pieces flew around, finally creating the whole picture. The Tardus were born old and shriveled up, just to gain the sympathy of a person or entity like Cathy, then, somehow, they use their tentacles to suck up all the energy of the victim, literally bringing themselves back to life while leaving the victims to die.
The thought was so horrifying that it almost made me throw up.
We are invaluable to them because we have so much energy that would allow them to become powerful. Powerful enough to conquer the universe.
Come human child, the voice purred behind me, funny how a few minutes ago it had sounded like knives scrapping on wood. No need to run
Catherine would have wanted you to help me, wouldn’t she?
I shut my eyes but kept running.
You couldn’t escape us no matter what you do, end it now, and I promise I would not consume you.
Our machine was just in my line of vision, I had to get away.
You are indeed an interesting human child, I’ve been inside her mind, Evanna.
The sound of my name scared me.
Come with me, surely your curiosity can not resist, let me show you the Tardus empire, billions upon billions of my kind, imagine how much energy it would take, we could conquer the universe, with your mind and our power!
The Tardus are weak now, they don’t have an empire. It’s lying. Lies.
I stretched out my hand, willing myself to go faster. The door slammed behind me as I started up the engines...Any time now...
The strange wiring sound indicated that the engines had started, it was taking me home. The shriek of the Tardus echoed the hole in my heart that was once filled by Cathy Shade.
Our story has ended, the story of two young girls, Catherine Shade and Evanna Carter, a new chapter had begun. The chapter of time travel, of the human race finally taking its first step into space, whether for good or bad, only time would tell.