Kudzu, a Novel
“I wish Jaworsky was awake,” Susan said.
Amelia bared her teeth. Jaworsky wasn’t awake, and wouldn’t be until they could get him some medical attention. Which meant he might never wake up. In the meantime, Susan was losing her shit, flailing ineffectively against the airlock door with a length of PVC piping.
In the meantime, the things in the shadows had come out of hiding. They crawled from behind crates, out of ventilation grills. They broke open access panels and crawled out of coon-holes. They gathered on the edge of visibility, creeping closer as their numbers grew.
They all looked like Jaworsky’s hand.
As they got closer, Amelia could make out more details. For the most part, they weren’t as slick or elegant as Jaworsky’s hand. They were constructed of all sorts of materials, pipes and springs and wires, metal plates and bits of fiber optic cable. No two the same, but all bearing a horrific similarity to Jaworsky’s mutinous appendage.
There were too many to count.
One of the hands sailed past, floating through the air right in front of them. Susan swung at it with the pipe. She missed. The thing followed them with fiber optic eyes as it went past and disappeared into the darkness.
“You tried the manual override?” Amelia said.
“For the thousandth time, yes.” Susan slammed her fist against the door. The sound rang dully. “Tharp must have gotten out before the power died, and left the other side open. We’re completely fucked.”
Amelia looked out at the sea of hands. Fiber optic eyestalks waved, fingers gestured. They crawled over each other like crabs.
Which were even tastier than cockroaches.
“Mmm, butter sauce,” she said.
“They’re like crabs,” Amelia said. “Looks like they’ve magnetized the tips of their fingers. I wonder…”
“What?” Susan said, again.
“Shut up,” Amelia said. “I’m thinking.” She closed her eyes and envisioned wiring diagrams. Her fingers traced imaginary circuits in the air.
She grinned at Susan. “Yes, this might actually work.”
Amelia pulled a screwdriver and a Torx set from her belt pack and handed them to Susan.
“Here. Get this panel open for me. There are two sub-panels inside. Pull the top one out so the wires are exposed. Try not to break anything. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?”
Amelia’s grin was feral. “Hunting crabs.”
Eric Tharp was beginning to regret his actions.
He’d gotten to the docking bay without difficulty, getting as far away as fast as possible from the horror that was Jaworsky’s hand. Odds were, by now the others were all dead, and him the only survivor.
Problem was, he wasn’t a survivor quite yet.
He’d opened the docking bay door without thinking. Without strapping himself down to anything.
The door had opened to the interior of a vast kudzu cavern. Air from inside the kudzu had rushed into the evacuated docking bay. Rushed in and swirled around, catching up everything that wasn’t strapped down. And then flinging it all out into the cavern.
Tharp had floated across the cavern for hours, watching the Beagle’s loading dock slowly diminish in the distance. Not getting appreciably closer to any of the other walls. It might be days at the rate he was going before he reached the other side.
Still, he was away from that thing.
He tried his radio again, just in case. Before, all he’d gotten was static. Nobody on the other side.
That didn’t mean anything. They could still be alive. The kudzu did strange things to radio signals. They’d seen that when Michael and Colleen had gone in earlier. For all he knew, they could still be alive, too. Alive and abandoned.
How do you apologize for abandoning someone?
How many people can you leave behind to die, and still be able to live with yourself?
Once again, all he got was static.
He exhaled in relief.
About an hour later, he drifted into an air current.
Colleen held two fingers up in front of Michael’s face.
“Two. How many times are you going to ask? My vision’s fine. I’m fine.” Michael slapped her hands away. The movement made him dizzy.
“You’re a bloody mess. Stop fighting and let me take care of you.”
Colleen tore a piece of her t-shirt off and wet it from her waterskin, the one without the fish. She dabbed at Michael’s face.
“You’re not going to stop, no matter what I say.”
“Nope. We’re going to be rescued soon. You want to look your best, don’t you?
“All right, fine.”
Colleen peeled his shirt off, got his legs untangled from his pants. She helped him lie back against the glass sphere. It looked like he was resting on infinity.
She washed the blood from his face and chest, and rinsed as much as she could from his dreaded locks.
“You’re going to need a proper bath,” she said.
“I’ll get right on that,” Michael said.
“Maybe stitches, too, if we can find a needle or something. There’s got to be some old stuff left behind in some of these satellites.”
Her hand lingered in the coarse hairs on his chest. Then she slipped it down his belly to wrap around his cock. It swelled at her touch.
“What are you doing?”
“You can’t tell? Maybe you do have a concussion.”
“No, I mean, I thought…”
Colleen leaned forward to take one of his nipples between her teeth, and he groaned.
“The way I remember it,” she said, her hand working the supple flesh over its rigid core, “we were rudely interrupted, just before you were about to come. We’ll be reunited with Ash and Slim pretty soon, so who knows when we’ll have any privacy.”
“Colleen,” Michael said. His hand cupped her ass. Slid to her hip. His fingers dug into her flesh.
“Shush,” Colleen said. She kissed his chest and throat, sank teeth into his shoulder.
Michael’s cock jerked in her hand, spilled across his belly and coated her fingers.
“Oh, fuck,” Michael said. “Colleen, there’s some—”
Colleen touched a finger gently to his lips.
“Yeah,” a voice said, coarse as used sandpaper. “You just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t mind little old me.”