0089: Impressions

With What Strange Eyes? #62

After a long silence, Rosemary whispered thickly: “I’ve seen things, Monty. Y’know? I’ve seen things. But that was the worst.”

The air in the space lift was thick with a silent tension as, with the heavy mechanical clank, it detached from the anchor and began to rise. Lamont leaned on the railing that ran along the lift’s outer perimeter, watching through the portholes as the barren ground receded, its details blurring into a violet haze. Within moments, he was able to make out the field of knockers through which they had passed when they first arrived, a nearly circular patch of relative darkness. His suspicions were confirmed when, even with effort and the knowledge that it was there, he was unable to make out the bone-filled dome at its center. There was movement in his peripheral vision, and he saw that Rosemary had come to stand next to him. Her diminutive frame was wrapped in a gray blanket, her eyes red-rimmed.

“How are you feeling?” Lamont asked.

Rosemary shrugged. “Splittin’ headache,” she said. 

“What did the alien do to you, do you think?”

The medic shook her head slightly. “My best guess is some kind of energy transference. She took something from me and used it to stimulate blood production in the pygmy’s body, start his heart up again. It seems like magic.”

Lamont’s brow furrowed. “Why are you and Francis so certain that the creature is a female? How can you tell?” He was worried that, despite his knack for keen observation, he had missed something obvious.

Rosemary’s pink hands emerged from the folds of the blanket, and she rubbed them together absently, as if remembering a sensation. “Whatever happened with me and the pygmy happened through her. I got impressions. Not direct communication, but a definite connection.”

Lamont nodded, recalling now that the first creatures they had encountered in the tunnels had made a similar connection with the captain. “Is that what makes you sure about what it—she—meant when she said, ‘All go?’”

Rosemary’s lips pressed together gravely. “Pretty sure. The impression I got was that the alien creatures have been there a lot longer than the humans. That the way the planet is now has a lot to do with the presence of those people.”

“Do you mean,” Lamont asked, “That the humans aren’t natives to this world?”

Rosemary shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe the aliens just live on a completely different time scale.”

Lamont’s mind flashed back to the Martian instrument that they had used to communicate. Machine hears. Machine remembers. Remembers what? he wondered.

“Do you think,” the newspaperman asked as delicately as he could manage, “That she knew it wouldn’t work? Between Francis and Rex?”

The young woman’s eyes immediately glistened with tears. She bit her lip, gazing fixedly out the porthole. “I’ve got to believe that she didn’t. They’re so different from us.”

Lamont nodded, trying to find comfort in that.

After a long silence, Rosemary whispered thickly: “I’ve seen things, Monty. Y’know? I’ve seen things. But that was the worst.”

The newspaper bowed his head in agreement. He didn’t know how he would ever put that moment behind him. What must it be like for Francis? 

Mechanically, Lamont reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his cigarette case before he realized that he had left it behind on Westward. Instead, his fingers found the jagged edges of the trinkets he had put in his pocket after taking them from the pygmy’s garments. Idly, he fished them out and sorted through them in the palm of his hand. It was a small collection of objects attached to makeshift pins or thongs. Bones, colorful stones, shapeless metal scraps. And then…

“What in the—” Lamont exclaimed suddenly, singling out one of the objects. “It can’t be!”

Next: An Unexpected Connection

What do you think Lamont has discovered?

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